About Dr. Anita Johnston

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Dr. Anita Johnston has created 40 entries.

Thoughts Are Like Clouds

I am here at Kalua Beach in Hawaii. And I’ve been sitting here, listening to the waves and watching the people and the dogs strolling down the beach. And watching the clouds as they float on by.

I’ve also been watching my own inner landscape, noticing how much my thoughts are like the clouds in the sky and how they appear, taking many different shapes and many different forms. Sometimes the clouds give me the indication that oh, it’s going to rain. Or oh, look, it just stopped raining and there’s a rainbow. I notice, these thoughts come and go like clouds come and go. And I can have all kinds of thoughts. Sometimes they are scary thoughts. Sometimes they are funny thoughts. Sometimes they are peaceful thoughts. Sometimes they are curious thoughts. There are thoughts thoughts thoughts thoughts thoughts. Because I have a mind, like we all have. And the mind is designed to contain our thoughts. They come up, regardless of what’s going on. We can have all different kinds of thoughts.

But here’s where things get tricky.
We start to believe our thoughts.
We stop questioning them and start believing any thought that pops up into our head.

So, for example, you can wake up in the morning with a fat attack — that’s when you feel like you’ve gained 20 pounds overnight. Now, if you were to pause for a moment, you would notice that it’s not possible to gain 20 pounds overnight. But every fiber in your being feels like you gained 20 pounds overnight.

So what has to happen is — you have to get curious and ask the question, and is that true? Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not true. What’s more […]

The gifts that we are meant to bring to the world

Hello. Dr. Anita Johnston here, and I’m getting ready to plant some seeds in my edible flower garden.

I’m not exactly sure why it is that I’ve been fascinated by edible flowers but I have been ever since I was a little girl. I think maybe it’s the idea that it’s a very direct way to literally bring in the beauty of Life. To really take it totally into my entire being.

As I plant the seeds, I get in touch with the great mystery of life and how is it that we, like these seeds, already come with everything we need for life. It’s all there. These little seeds can grow into big bushes or delicate flowers or giant trees. And we don’t have to do anything to make that happen, other than provide the environment that is optimal: the environment that will allow whatever it is that’s already been seeded to come forth.

That’s how it is with the very nature of our being. To entertain the idea (because we can learn so much from nature) that we already are seeded with gifts. The gifts that we have. The gifts that we are meant to bring to the world. But in order for them to come forth, we need to make sure that the ground is fertile, and that it has all the nutrients we need in order to grow. In order to flourish. And we need to make sure that we get the optimal amount of sunshine. Sometimes that means transporting, transplanting, ourselves someplace else. To a sunnier spot.

And sometimes it means making more space, removing weeds, that which does not serve us. Or just making sure there’s enough space around us so that […]

Ancient Wisdom meets Modern Neuroscience

Hello. Dr. Anita Johnston here. And I am at the MEDA conference. Which stands for Multi Service Eating Disorder Association. I am in Boston, Massachusetts for the conference. I gave a talk here entitled Ancient Wisdom meets Modern Neuroscience and I want to share a little bit with you about some of what I talked about.

It’s so exciting for me when the ancient stories come together with what we’ve discovered with modern neuroscience especially because they have now found the neuro-correlate of metaphor in the brain. It’s right over your right ear. And it’s called the anterior superior temporal gyrus.

What the neuroscientists have discovered is this is where something happens when you get an insight: when you get an understanding of the deeper meaning of what’s really going on with your eating or with your thoughts about eating.

When you get an insight, and an awareness pops in your mind, you go, oh, I got it! I had no idea about this before, but now I can see, there’s a connection between what I’m doing with eating and food and my relationship with my husband. Or my career. Or memories. Or thoughts that I have.

They’ve now been able to measure the brain during those moments when you “get it.” There’s a part of your brain, the anterior superior temporal gyrus, in your right hemisphere. And it sends out a burst of gamma waves. Now, gamma waves are the highest electrical frequency that the brain can generate. They can now measure and see that that’s what’s happening. And they know, before that even happens in your right hemisphere, there’s a hum of alpha waves going on.

Alpha waves are what we experience when we are taking a […]

Feeling, observing, and experiencing waves of emotion

I’m in Hawaii, and I’ve been here this morning just sitting with the ocean and watching the waves and really thinking about how much we are like the ocean.

How much our emotions are like the ocean and how we have these waves that come, peak, and pass. And they come in and they peak and they pass.

But for some reason, we get the idea that we’re supposed to do something about them. Rather than just allowing the emotions to come in and peak and pass, we try to stop them. We have rules about which are the good waves that are allowed and which are the bad waves that are allowed. And we bemoan when the ocean is stormy. And we relax when it’s calm.

But the ocean itself, and this is what we can learn from nature, the ocean itself accepts all waves. And allows them to peak and pass. And come in. And peak and pass. It doesn’t fight them. It doesn’t call some waves “good” waves and some waves “bad” waves. It accepts them all and allows them to flow.

So I’d like you to think about that. Think about how your life might be different if you could be more like the ocean. And just allow these feelings, these waves of emotion to flow through us, rather than thinking, oh my gosh, I got to do something to stop that feeling. Or I have to restrict it in some way. Or there must be something wrong with me because I’m feeling things so strongly.

Does the ocean say, oh there must be something wrong with me when it gets a little stormy? No, it just allows. And it knows that it will pass. […]

It is ok to be sensitive…

My adorable gorgeous dog is Ozzie. He is more than my companion.

I want to tell you a little bit about Ozzie.

Ozzie is a really sensitive being. And sometimes in my sessions with clients, Ozzie will come in and join us.

Once, with one particular client who was crying, he went and put his head on her lap to comfort her. Later, when she was complaining about her husband who was really giving her a hard time about something, she said “I just wish he would give me some space.” And at that moment, Ozzie got up, walked across the room and sat on the other side of the room.

What if we could accept our sensitive nature?
What if we could say, alright, I feel things deeply?

Maybe stuff that might not affect somebody else, penetrates my very bones. And, so what if I feel things deeply, is that really a bad thing? For those of us who are super sensitive and find certain things intolerable — perhaps there are things that not to be tolerated.

Imagine what the world would be like without that level of sensitivity?

There would be all kinds of horrible things that would be tolerated when people weren’t sensitive to them. Imagine what it would be like if we had a world without people who were sensitive to the smell of a new born baby. Or the sensation of the sun against your skin. Or the sound of the birds as they go flying by.

All of these are sensations, and those of us that are very sensitive, we get to take them in. We get to take in so much of life, if we allow our sensitivity. But if we don’t, we think there’s […]

The road to recovery is full of twist and turns. . .

I am in Texas at a lovely place called the Sheltering Tree, which is a counselling center that is run and owned by my friend and colleague, Cathy Woodward.

In the back yard of the Sheltering Tree is a fantastic Labyrinth. The Labyrinth is something that is near and dear to my heart, because it’s the perfect metaphor of what recovery really is about. So many of us think that recovery is like entering a maze.

Where there are so many mistakes to be made.

And wrong turns.

And ways in which you get blocked.

But a Labyrinth is something that is very different. Because you see, there are no wrong turns here.

It’s a twisting, winding path.

It’s not the path into something and out of something.

It’s a path that you take to the center of your very being.

And then once you get there, that’s not the end, because you then find your way out.

A Labyrinth has been used since ancient times to symbolize the journeys we take though life, whatever they happen to be. And so, when you enter a Labyrinth, it can at times be very confusing. Very overwhelming. You go, wait a minute, I was just here, and now I…how did I get back here again?

Just like in recovery, you get to a point where you go, wait a minute. I thought I already resolved my issues with my mother. How come I’m back here again?

The truth is, you’re back in it, but you’re in it at a whole different level. You’re in it at a different place. You’re in it with a different kind of understanding. So, as you enter the Labyrinth of Recovery, you make your way towards the center of your very […]

What are you doing to stay afloat in strong emotional currents?

As I was spending time down at the river, it made me think of one of my favorite metaphors.

Imagine, imagine you’re on the banks of a raging river. It’s pouring down rain, and you slip and you fall in, and you’re drowning.

You are getting pulled down through the rapids. And eventually along comes a big log. And you grab on. And the log saves your life. It keeps your head above water, when surely you would have drowned. And eventually it carries you to a place where the river is calm. But, you can’t get to the river bank because you’re clinging so tightly to the log.

Make no mistake about it, the log is like your disordered eating. It has saved your life at a time when surely you would have drowned in some very strong emotional currants. And it serves a function, a very important function. And it would behoove you to know what that function is.

But to make it more complicated, there is always someone on the riverbank yelling let go of the log, let go of the log. And you feel like an absolute idiot, because you can’t let go of the log.

Well, the truth of the matter is, letting go of that log may not be the very best thing to do initially.

Because what happens if you let go of the log, start to swim to shore, get half way there and realize you don’t have the strength to make it?

That means you don’t have the strength to make it back to the log either.

And you’re really sunk.

So, what do you do instead?

Let go of the log.

Try floating.

When you start to sink, grab back on.

Let go of the log and […]

Are you blocking things you shouldn’t?

Are you blocking things you shouldn’t?

Its springtime and it’s snowing – here in Denver, Colorado.

When I first saw the snow, I thought, oh no, it’s going to knock all the beautiful blossoms off the apple tree!

— and it very well might.

But I started thinking….

How often do things in our life not go the way we think they should?

Do you ever find yourself saying “Oh no, this shouldn’t be happening?” Or say: I shouldn’t be feeling this?”

When life decides to — what we would consider – “misbehave” itself, we often try to block it. We try to block our feelings. We try to block our experience of it. Rather than accept it.

If you block your feelings and think, oh no, I shouldn’t be having this feeling, I shouldn’t be feeling sad, I shouldn’t be feeling annoyed, I shouldn’t be feeling frustrated, I should be happy.  Then you start thinking about the ways in which you should be feeling rather than accepting the feelings that are coming up.

Sometimes feelings don’t make any sense; sometimes they are unpredictable.

Human nature is to fight those feelings.

And often, we fight those feelings with food.

We might restrict our food in an attempt to restrict our feelings.

You might start to obsess about the foods you’re not allowing yourself to eat.

You might try to avoid the “bad” feelings.

When you stuff yourself with food when you’re not hungry, it’s a way of numbing your feelings.

When you go for a long, long run or hop on an exercise bike because you want to distract yourself and run from the feelings you’re having rather than just running for the joy of it, again, you’re blocking your experience of life.

If you allow the feelings that come […]

Register today!

Register for Light of the Moon Cafe—January 5, 2014
Participants, get more details and enroll!

By |December 24th, 2013|Categories: All Post||Comments Off on Register today!

Welcome to the Café.

Thanks for visiting!
Keep your eye on the blog, more café news coming soon….

By |December 18th, 2013|Categories: All Post||Comments Off on Welcome to the Café.
>